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Book Review: Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Your Next Million

By Susan Carey Dempsey on February 2, 2010No Comment

In these trying times, for nonprofits no less than for other segments of this struggling economy, it’s often possible to become overwhelmed by seemingly insurmountable challenges. For board members, development professionals and executive directors, there are a million arguments against moving forward with capital campaigns and ambitious fundraising initiatives. Except that you have to.

And once you’ve done your feasibility study and determined that pursuing your goal may be difficult but achievable, you’ve got to take a deep breath and proceed in a methodical fashion. Make sure all the basics are in place: an appropriate pool of prospects, good leadership, a clear and compelling case for support, and a comprehensive plan for achieving your goal.

You might add one new tool to that list: a small but helpful book that’s the latest in a series of one-hour, digestible reads: “How to Raise $1 Million (or More!) in 10 Bite-Sized Steps.” This guide is drawn from real life experiences by Andrea Kihlstedt, who has worked as a fundraising consultant for nearly three decades with scores of nonprofit organizations. While the process of major gifts fundraising can, on the one hand, be boiled down to one page of principles or at the other extreme, explicated in lengthy seminars, Kihlstedt’s approach is to illustrate some of the most critical points with a series of enlightening and often entertaining anecdotes.

In a conversational but straightforward style, the author recounts a number of experiences she’s obviously encountered at numerous nonprofits in the course of her consulting career, with names changed to protect the innocent and avoid annoying those who don’t play well with others.

For most veteran fundraisers, a sense of humor when dealing with difficult people may be an often underestimated but powerful trait. And many of those professionals and volunteers will recognize such characters as Art, who tried to persuade his fellow board members that their community nonprofit could easily raise half a million dollars by asking 500 people to buy paving bricks at $1,000 each. Or the big-shot Bill, who looked like a good choice for campaign chairman, until the executive director noticed how he liked to be the center of attention, but took on little of the work.

“Ten Bite-Sized Steps” does indeed break some familiar material into a quick, entertaining read, but it offers a bit more. By recounting how different members of a campaign team – chairmen, committee members, executive staff, fundraisers – adjusted and coped with the foibles and weaknesses of one member or another, Kihlstedt invariably teaches a lesson about overcoming a challenge and ultimately attaining success. For campaigners who will encounter many challenges over the course of a campaign, maintaining equilibrium, optimism and, yes, a sense of humor will be difficult. By observing and absorbing the experiences Kihlstedt uses to illustrate her pivotal points, readers will have a chance to re-invigorate their own and possibly their teams’ spirits, and renew their focus on the goal. Since the publisher, Emerson and Church, offers discounts for quantities purchased for boards of directors and staff, it’s a way to keep everyone enthusiastic and empowered through the entire campaign.

“How to Raise $1 Million (or More) in 10 Bite-Sized Steps,” by Andrea Kihlstedt. Emerson and Church, Publishers (www.emersonandchurch.com)

Susan Carey Dempsey, Editor-in-Chief of onPhilanthropy, is Managing Partner of CauseWired Communications, a firm advising nonprofits and causes in effective communications and strategy. She can be reached at susan@causewired.com

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